Air Horn Trouble for Babus
CHENNAI: The incessant honking on roads that can deafen anyone’s ears has got the attention of southern bench of National Green Tribunal (NGT), which took a serious view of the matter, and pulled-up bureaucrats for failing to prevent the use of banned high decibel ‘air horns’ when neighbouring States like Karnataka and Kerala achieved greater success.
In a suo motto case based on a letter filed by octogenerian A M Joseph of Mylapore, the green bench has directed the State government to take out an awareness drive and advertise in all leading newspapers, both English and vernacular, on prohibition of air horns within a week and initiate action in accordance with the law. The bench, comprising Justice P Jyothimani and R Nagendran, has proposed to form a 3-member vigilance committee with officials from Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB), State Transport Department and a common man to beef-up the monitory mechanism. Before, the court had asked the amicus curie and officials to do a study on provisions available in Central Motor Vehicles Rules, 1989 and Environment Protection Act, 1986 and submit a report.
As per the Supreme Court ruling, under section 119 (2) of the Central Motor Vehicles (CMV) Rules, 1989, the use of air horns is banned and is also an offence under section 190 (2) of Motor Vehicles Act (1988).
The court was alarmed over the fact that air horns are being rampantly used in Chennai by all types of vehicles including trucks, school buses, government and private vehicles. “Use of such high decibel air horns can frighten school children and even cause accidents, besides causing other health problems like damage to ear drums. This can’t be allowed. The Bengaluru has got rid of air horns and Kerala is also doing good job. Why can’t you (transport officials) make our people fall in line? What is the difficulty? You are not interested in such things? You are interested in something else. A Chennai driver, when he enters the boundary of a neighbouring State, is cautious of using air horn because he knows he will be caught,” Justice Jyothimani raged. An environmental activist from Tiruppur K L Ponnuswamy, who fought against the use of air horns in Karnataka and Kerala, said there are several scientific evidences that correlate use of air horns to various health issues. “I have been fighting against use of air horns in Tamil Nadu for past 10 years and written letters to all the departments concerned, but there has been no positive response. The transport officials do random checks and remove air horns from few vehicles and dump the issue. The traffic police can impose a spot fine of Rs 1,000 for first offence and Rs 2,000 for repeated offence, but they are not bothered,” Ponnuswamy told the City Express.
Also, corporation should erect ‘Silence Zone’ boards prohibiting honking and use of air horns in an area comprising not less than 100 metres around hospitals, educational institutions and courts. “But even this is not followed in Chennai,” he said. “Some four wheelers and two-wheelers in Chennai have multiple horns which is also an offence that goes unchecked.”
An official of TNPCB acknowledged that honking results in over 60% of noise pollution in the city and the government had banned the use of air horns in 1992. “But it’s a matter of compliance. It’s very difficult for the officials to check every vehicle in a city that has nearly 40 lakh vehicles.”
According to Section 190(2) in The Motor Vehicles Act, 1988, any person who drives or causes or allows to be driven, in any public place a motor vehicle, which violates the standards prescribed in relation to road safety, control of noise and air-pollution, shall be punishable for the first offence with a fine of Rs 1,000 and for any subsequent offence with a fine of Rs 2,000
What does Rule 119 of CMV Rules, 1989 say?
(1) Every motor vehicle shall be fitted with an electric horn or other device (conforming to the specifications of the Bureau of Indian Standards) for use by the driver of the vehicle and capable of giving audible and sufficient warning of the approach or position of the vehicle
(2) No motor vehicle shall be fitted with any multi-toned horn giving a succession of different notes or with any other sound-producing device giving an unduly harsh, shrill, loud or alarming noise
(3) Nothing contained in sub-rule (2) shall prevent the use on vehicles used as ambulance or for fighting or salvage purpose or on vehicles used by police officers or officers of the Motor Vehicles Department in the course of their duties of such sound signals as may be approved by the registering authority in whose jurisdiction such vehicles are kept